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Breakfast

Eating the World Every Morning

A Stranger at Home in a Strange Land

Jan.06.16

A Stranger at Home in a Strange Land

by Elana Berkowitz

Naan in Dhaka

When I married into a Russian-Bangladeshi family based in Dhaka a few years ago, I feared we might not have much in common. My anxieties proved unfounded: at a minimum, we all share a deep fear of leaving the house hungry, even if we are only going to get breakfast. So we pre-game.

When my husband and I make our annual visit, we start the morning with an astringent, pinkish tea made from dried flowers that my in-laws call “Sudanese Rose,” but which is also called karkade, hibiscus, or, in the tribal hill country, tok—”sour” in Bangla. With the tea, we’ll snack on some slices of cheese, homemade olive and tamarind pickle, dry biscuits, and leftover salad dressed with lime and the pungent heat of mustard oil. The whole room is filled with the incense-like tang of mosquito coils burning in clay pots.

Dhaka’s 15+ million people are crammed into around 125 square miles, making it denser (and more exhausting) than almost any other city on earth. My in-laws moved past the edge of Dhaka after decades in the heart of the city, whose sprawl moves so rapidly that it seems to undulate.

The new digs mean we get to take a morning constitutional every day when we go for breakfast in a nearby village. We set out while the sun is still low, picking our way through a dusty construction site for an impressive 100-foot-wide road and then down a smaller road marked with farm plots of nascent rice shoots.

It’s still cool so I’m bundled in a sweater and down vest. Climate change has led to more extreme winters here in a place where many live in insufficient housing without any insulation or cold weather clothing; dozens of people routinely die of cold each year in a country where winters rarely go below 40F. People pass us in the road with their heads wrapped, toothache-style, in plaid scarves that seemingly half the country owns along with layer upon layer of insufficient t-shirts with improbable slogans from local factories (“Old is the New” “Party Time Pancakes”).

We arrive in the neighboring village—which consists of one narrow main drag of about twenty shops—and take low metal stools at a small, partially open-air roadside spot. Most Bangladeshis have simple rice for breakfast. We’re having a pricier but still typical option: parathas fresh from the griddle, a scallion egg omelet, daal, and a spiced vegetable mash. Instead of paratha, I opt for roti naan without oil or butter, hot from the clay oven. All of this is downed with multiple rounds of tea, always with condensed milk.

Bangladesh has fewer tourists than almost every other country on earth save hot spots like North Korea and Vanuatu. As a visitor and the very rare white guest ambling through their village on the outskirts of Dhaka, I’m a minor celebrity. The attentiveness of our waiter is intense; he flings the next puffed, browned naan right on top of the half-finished one I had begun just a moment earlier. Every few minutes, someone strolls by trying to seem quite busy doing something else while actually snapping a selfie with me somewhere in the frame. I speak pretty much two words of Bangla: “acha” (OK) and “dhonnobad” (thank you) so I basically just say that over and over again and smile broadly.

Each time I come to Dhaka I feel like I’m looking in at a different world I’ll never understand; each time, however, it begins to feel a bit more familiar as well, like how my breakfast order now rolls off my tongue.

Back home, my mother-in-law and I huddle in the kitchen with the two teenage girls who work for her, shelling an enormous, slouching sack of peas. We put on another pot of hibiscus tea.

Will Someone Please Make Us This Yemenite Pancake Hybrid Stat?

Nov.20.17

Will Someone Please Make Us This Yemenite Pancake Hybrid Stat?

by Malou Herkes

Lachuch in Tel Aviv

The first time I met Irit, she was running around her tiny hole-in-the-wall café, blistering aubergines and squeezing oranges, chopping salad and plonking plates onto tables. All the while, she screeched Hebrew greetings and orders to her customers. Her long grey hair was scraped into a messy bun and she wore a t-shirt with the words “I DO WHAT I WANT” on the back.

She’s the type of person you can’t not like. Irit has a little place in the Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv, just behind the main Carmel shuk. It’s a quaint neighborhood of one or two-story buildings with flat roofs, that make it easy to imagine the old Tel Aviv, the one before skyscraper hotels and shopping malls. In Hebrew, the area is known as Kerem HaTeimanim, which translates as Yemenite’s vineyard, and it’s here that she grew up, when camels and cattle still crowded the streets.

When I arrive, the place is full. So instead of waiting, Irit gets me squeezing lemons for fresh lemonade, serving shakshuka, and making lachuch; a cross between a crumpet and a pancake.

Lachuch is classic Yemenite-Jewish fare, and is now ubiquitous in Israel, along with a fiery, fresh coriander relish, known as zhoug, and a variety of sweet pastries and breads, including a layered sausage-shaped roll of pastry and margarine that’s slow-cooked overnight until it’s deep brown and buttery sweet, then eaten with an egg.

Yemenite food has become an intrinsic part of Israeli cuisine, introduced with the waves of Yemenite-Jewish migrants who came to Israel, fleeing worsening tensions during the 1950s. Irit’s parents were among them.

Lachuch is a basic mixture of flour, yeast, salt, and fenugreek, left to rise and bubble for an hour before being fried into an airy pancake. It’s comparable to Ethiopian injera, I suppose. But Irit’s version is crispy. And has an egg in the middle.

The batter is rising in a corner. The day’s humidity is doing its job as bubbles appear, crackle and pop on the surface. It’s been sitting for an hour, and she insists that any longer will ruin it. She stirs the gloopy, airy mixture in a clockwise motion with her hand, while a pan with oil heats on the hob. She then scoops out a ladleful of the batter, slops it into the pan and tilts it so the mixture spreads and covers the base in a thin layer. Little bubbles appear on the surface as the base sets and browns. The main rule is not to flip it, but instead to cook it until set. Irit cracks an egg into the middle, then folds it up and allows the hot pocket to cook the yolk, allowing for egg white to spill out and form crisp edges around the lachuch’s now golden crust.

The lachuch is flipped and slam-dunked onto a plate with smoky aubergine and a crisp salad of fresh herbs and red peppers piled alongside. Tahini is drizzled liberally on top. She hands me the plate brusquely, almost forgetting the obligatory side of fiery zhoug and grated fresh tomato. We eat.

Probably the Most Wholesome Breakfast Dispatch We’ve Ever Published

Nov.15.17

Probably the Most Wholesome Breakfast Dispatch We’ve Ever Published

by Laura Marie

Bircher muesli in Switzerland

I climb down from the top bunk in the renovated Swiss hospital where I am staying. The retreat center keeps prices down in expensive Switzerland by having us all participate in work around the building, and my shoulders are a good kind of tired after cleaning 18 bathrooms the day before.

There is no kitchen staff; everyone helps out with meals. I’m intrigued to see what was in the enormous, heavy vats that I’d carried to the refrigerator the night before, mysteriously capped with aluminum foil. They said it was “muesli,” but they seemed too heavy for the granola-like substance I knew to be muesli.

What greeted me the next morning in the quiet dining room, between carafes of coffee and plates of pastry, was… goop. The goop appeared to contain some granola-grains like oats, yes, but it also had dried fruit, fresh apple bits, a glistening layer of yogurt over all of it. It looked unappealing, but before I could pass it over, one of the breakfast hosts for that morning grabbed a cup and scooped me out a serving. “Trust me,” she said, as if she could feel my hesitation. “Try it.”

What I tasted was fresh, sweet, with a touch of cinnamon. It felt like everything healthy I could eat, all in one bite. The sun filled the room, reflecting off the snow-capped Alps. I was absorbed in the task of eating my muesli. The small cup I had was so filling I no longer needed the rest of the room’s breakfast bounty.

This goop, or what we know as Bircher muesli, was actually the first muesli (the crunchy stuff came later). When Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner developed it in 1900 to improve his patients’ health, it was intended as a healthy substitute for dinner, not breakfast. His original recipe—oats soaked overnight, condensed milk, and raw apple—was both effective and delicious, and this meal helped spark Switzerland’s reputation as a wholesome, healthy-living nation. Now it’s a staple breakfast in western Europe, not to mention a mainstay in health stores and brunch spots in the United States.

I didn’t come here seeking the wellness cures of centuries past, but I can feel myself getting a little healthier, it seems, with every bite of this chewy, sweet, crunchy muesli.

L’Abri Fellowship
Chalet Bellevue
Route de Villars 89
1884 Huémoz
Switzerland

“Can You Pour Bourbon on My Doughnut?”

Nov.14.17

“Can You Pour Bourbon on My Doughnut?”

by Roxanne Scott

Doughnuts in Louisville

Two things had to happen once I decided to move to Louisville: I had to try bourbon and I had to try fried chicken. I did not expect to have both on a doughnut.

At 10:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the sign in the window of the yellow-and-pink brick building of Hi-Five Doughnuts on Main Street reads: Come & Get It. Once you walk past the pink door with images of sprinkles painted on it, the racks behind the glass window at the cashier have a spread of caramel apple doughnuts as well as beer-glazed doughnuts with mini chocolate chips and pretzels.

The wait was 15 minutes, but I knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in—the KY Fried Buttermilk Chicken Doughnut. But once it was time to order, I decided that wasn’t enough.

“Can you pour bourbon on my doughnut?” I ask.

“We don’t have a liquor license,” the sweet cashier told me. “But we can add the bourbon caramel glaze. That’s made with bourbon in it.”

Done.

I took my seat facing the wall that I’d like to believe is a homage to Kendrick Lamar. In a scribbly pattern, the wall read “Doughnut Kill My Vibe.” The shop sits in the changing Butchertown neighborhood in Louisville. Once a community of German immigrants in the meatpacking section of the city, Butchertown is now a hub for white-collar workers.

Doughnuts have been around for a long time. But the modern, American version made its way to the U.S by way of the Dutch in New York in the 18th century. Back then, the snacks were called “oily cakes.” Later, doughnut production became automated when a Russian immigrant invented a doughnut-making machine in the 1920s. Doughnuts were given to the country’s newcomers at Ellis Island. During World War I, women volunteers served doughnuts to American servicemen to remind them of home. Legend has it that the recipe from Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts came from a Frenchman who sold his recipe to a shop in Paducah, Kentucky in the 1930s.

In the 1940s, the Doughnut Corporation of America led a campaign of ‘Vitamin Doughnuts’ fortified with thiamine, Vitamin B3, and iron. The campaign failed. Today, we know that doughnuts are about gluttony, comfort, and indulgence.

“Thank you for waiting,” the cashier tells me as she places my dish in front of me. But she quickly apologizes and whisks my plate away, saying she forgot to add the bourbon caramel glaze. She comes back with a donut cut in half sandwich-style, with small pieces of fried chicken in between. The creamy glaze drips from the top of the ring-shaped sandwich and overruns on the plate.

A mixture of sweet, salty, booze, and deep-fried comfort, my breakfast was delightful and very much over-the-top. And I’d eat one again. The least I could do on a Saturday morning was treat myself to the simple pleasure of a doughnut.

Hi-Five Doughnuts:
1011 East Main Street
Louisville, KY 40206
Hours of operation: Monday and Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Friday: 6:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

You Could Do Worse Than a Boiled Egg and a Sweet View

Nov.13.17

You Could Do Worse Than a Boiled Egg and a Sweet View

by Lucy Sherriff

Eggs in the Faroe Islands

It’s been raining for five days straight and I’ve yet to glimpse the sky. The low, impenetrable clouds only add to my feelings of isolation. I’m in the Faroe Islands, alone, to film a short documentary on whaling. I have yet to get any shots of the fairytale-like scenery—waterfalls cascading off clifftops and crashing into the sea, grass-roofed wooden churches and craggy, ominous mountains—without getting drenched. My spirits are pretty low.

I spend my days driving from island to island (there are 13 here, although some are only accessible by boat or helicopter), hoping for a weather change. The climate is a national topic of conversation; the Faroese can see snow, rain, sun, and sleet all in the same day.

Today I’m up early. I’ve heard rumors of a break in the weather on Kunoy. I grab a boiled egg and a couple of crackers from the uninspiring buffet table at my hostel to eat in the car. It’s become a boring morning breakfast ritual.

Food can be difficult out here. Faroe Islanders hunt and eat whales. It’s called grindadráp, an age-old tradition whereby pilot whales are herded into designated bays and killed by villagers, turning the sea a startling red. They can only grow five types of food on the island, so what they can’t grow, hunt, or fish, they have to import. This means fresh fruit and vegetables are eye-wateringly expensive, and food can be unremarkable, let’s say, if one isn’t dining in one of the capital’s few (and expensive) restaurants.

Although Kunoy is almost the other side of the country from where I’m staying in Torshavn, it’s only a 90-minute drive. I meander through dark, dank tunnels in the mountains, on winding roads carved out of deep, lush green valleys. The rain is unrelenting, the wind so fierce I have to stop the car at one point for fear of being blown off the road.

As I maneuver another hairpin bend, I finally glimpse the sun piercing through the clouds. The fjord pans out below me, and among the rolling fields and foreboding water, there’s a small, white church.

I glance at the forgotten bundle of napkins on the passenger seat containing the egg and crackers. I’m suddenly hungry and the thought of my simple breakfast makes my stomach rumble. I drive down to the church, hoping for a place to sit. I find a small picnic bench perched on the side of a hill, between the church and the sea. My only company is the few gravestones in the church’s cemetery.

I unwrap my breakfast, crack the egg on the picnic table, peel off the shell and break it in two with my hands. I didn’t bring a knife. I take a bite. The crunch of the cracker seems deafening in the stillness.

A boiled egg on a cracker: my breakfast isn’t organic, local, or “farm fresh.” But paired with complete silence, solitude, and the scenery, suddenly the food doesn’t matter so much.

Fuck Yeah to Australian Breakfast and Getting Things Done

Nov.10.17

Fuck Yeah to Australian Breakfast and Getting Things Done

by Erin Cook

Bacon-and-egg rolls in Canberra

Australia is obsessed with quantifying Australianness. I’d argue there’s nothing more Australian than a breakfast of a bacon-and-egg roll with a flat white on the side. Apart from, maybe, a failing government forcing an expensive and unnecessary vote to quell its own internal discord.

It’s 2017, and these aren’t the simple bacon-and-egg rolls of our grandparents’ generation. Turkey-bacon and tofu for the vegan or religious among us. Scrambled eggs over the classic fried egg for the picky eaters. Soy milk, almond milk, artful shapes made for Instagram posts.

And it’s 2017, and this isn’t the vote of our grandparents’ generation. ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ Yes or no. This isn’t a question; this is a call to arms.

I’m sitting across from my sister, Caitlin, on this start-of-Spring-do-I-need-a-jacket early morning at Lonsdale Street Roasters in the hip neighborhood of Braddon, in Canberra, Australia’s capital. After this, she’ll walk up a block and spend the next few hours asking brunch-goers and Saturday shoppers if they’ve received their ballot yet and explain her case for the ‘Yes’ vote. But for now, it’s two sugars and the morning papers.

She wasn’t always like this; usually, she’d have a smashed avo with feta with a debrief of the night before at the more respectable hour of 11 a.m. But she’s incensed at the question our government has asked her, and our parents, to answer about our youngest sister. They’ve forced us to reduce our sister Shannon—and her relationship—to a box to be ticked on a form. Yes, obviously Yes!

Around the country this morning, there are, no doubt, scores of Australians doing the same. A steady, solid breakfast of protein and caffeine for volunteers and supporters who have made it their goal to protect loved ones and strangers from having to fight for their own equality in a vicious battle no one but Australia’s far-flung right wing asked for.

Let Shannon and her partner, let our friends and the hundreds of thousands of LGBT-identifying Australians Caitlin will never meet, sleep in today. Let them wash away the cruel ‘No’ campaign, the letters in newspapers and ads on TV telling them their existence is wrong, with a mimosa or two. Let the government, which sits just a few minutes’ drive from here, answer to them. And they will, with polling showing record engagement and a likely ‘Yes’ win.

There’s nothing extraordinary about what Caitlin is doing. But it’s the ordinary that gets shit done in Australia. This ordinary is quintessentially Australian. And we’ll get this done, too.

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